Going out to eat with your children should be a relaxing and pleasant experience. Mom and Dad get to take a break from cooking and cleaning up, and the whole family has the opportunity to try new foods and flavors or chow down on a favorite dish. Plus getting out of the house and into a new environment helps break up the everyday routine. Finally, dining out offers the perfect chance to catch up on quality time with your kids.
Sounds great, right? And most of the time it is, but then there are those rare occasions when everything goes wrong: kids act out, babies start crying, something gets spilled, and dirty looks from other diners make things even worse.
Sure, there will always be mishaps. That’s why having a sense of humor—and a helpful waitress—helps ensure that the evening will be worthwhile. Here are a few tips to help you plan a successful evening out with the kids.
• Choose a family-friendly restaurant – Call ahead and inquire about high chairs and booster seats if you’re not sure. Also check to see if there are any special menus or discounts for children.
• Clarify your expectations - Before leaving the house, remind your little darlings how important it is be on their best behavior in a restaurant. Also tell them whether certain food are off limits so they know what they can and can’t order.
• Arrive early – Getting started early ensures that you will have extra attentive wait staff and the kids won’t get restless waiting for their food to arrive.
• Bring along toys to keep your kids occupied – Toys, games, even something as simple as playing tic-tac-toe can help keep kids from getting restless.
• Encourage your kids to try new foods – Kids’ menus can be pretty limited. Consider ordering an appetizer, salad, or soup for your child’s meal.
• Ask for extra napkins – Always handy!
• Take your time – Don’t rush. Use this opportunity to have a conversation with your child about school, friends, or whatever topic you never seem to get around to talking about at home. Tell your kids stories about when you grew up.
• Teach appreciation – If they forget, remind your kids to say “Thank you” and show their gratitude to you for taking them out to eat.
• Take an After-Dinner Stroll – If time permits, take a walk after dinner—even if it’s just around the mall or back home in your neighborhood—and enjoy a few more moments of togetherness before heading home to homework, TV, and the many other distractions of modern life.